When people think of succulents today, they likely think of one of the many species of Haworthia. Native to southern portions of Africa, they’re a true drought-tolerant species that thrive in various conditions and make excellent houseplants.
To propagate Haworthia, you must first ensure your Haworthia plant has the best growing conditions. Once the growing conditions are ideal, gather your tools, including succulent soil and terracotta pots, and separate the new, smaller Haworthia plants from the mother plant and repot them.
You can do several things to help boost the chance of successfully propagating your Haworthia. Keep reading if you’d like a step-by-step guide to propagating Haworthia and tips and tricks to set your new plant up for success.
1. Create the Best Growing Conditions for Haworthia
To understand the steps to propagating Haworthia, it’s essential to first know about the plants’ native environment and growing conditions.
Consider that the Haworthia is one genus in the same family as the Aloe. Like the Aloe, Haworthia is known for broad, tough leaves that have adapted to retain water for long periods.
This is because Haworthia is native to portions of southern Africa. In their native environment, Haworthia can be found in rocky areas with sandy, loose soil. Their native climate is naturally warm and dry, with sporadic but drenching rains.
Consider, then, that when you have a Haworthia as a houseplant, it’s best to do all you can to replicate these native conditions. While Haworthia is a tough species, it’s the happiest and healthiest in conditions that mimic the native habitat.
Give Your Haworthia the Proper Potting Soil
As a succulent, Haworthia is loosely related to cactus and requires loose, fast-draining soil. Haworthia will thrive in very sandy soil as well. The plants like an occasional, thorough watering, but they want the soil around their roots to dry out quickly and thoroughly.
When propagating Haworthia, it’s vital to have suitable soil on hand. A potting medium specifically formulated for cacti or succulents is your best option. These are developed at a proper pH for succulents and are intended to replicate those ideal fast-draining conditions.
Plant Your Haworthia in the Correct Pot
Before propagating Haworthia, you must have a pot for the new plants. Interestingly, the type of plant pot you choose is pivotal to the propagated plants’ success.
Self-watering and solid-bottomed pots are designed to help plants hold moisture for as long as possible. Having water at the bottom of the pot keeps the root system damp for as long as possible, given the other conditions.
Since Haworthia doesn’t like damp roots or to be in wet soil, it’s best to avoid self-watering pots and solid-bottomed pots. Instead, look for a pot with drain holes at the bottom that sits in a drip tray. This allows water to drain freely from the pot and move through quickly. Here are some tips to consider when choosing a pot for your Haworthia:
- The ideal pot for Haworthia is a terracotta pot with a drain hole at the bottom, sitting atop a terracotta drip tray. This is because terracotta is semi-porous, which allows water to “drain” away from the soil around the plant via evaporation.
- Ceramic pots are the next best option, as long as the pot has a drain hole and sits on a drip tray. These don’t allow water to evaporate through the pot as unglazed terracotta does, but they will still help move moisture away from the root system quickly to promote drying.
- Plastic pots are another option but aren’t ideal for Haworthia. Pots made of plastic do an excellent job of retaining moisture in the soil as long as possible, which needs to be better suited to these plants. Even if they have a drain hole, plastic pots should only be used if there’s no other choice.
Create a Proper Watering Regimen for Your Haworthia
Haworthia has adapted naturally to go a long time between receiving water, as evidenced by their leaves. As such, you typically will only need to water them as frequently as many other houseplants.
Instead of watering on a schedule, figure out a loose plan by determining how quickly your plant dries out between waterings. However, decide when to water only by checking the soil manually. This will help avoid any potential overwatering.
To do this, push a finger into the soil from the top of the plant towards the roots to see if the soil is damp or completely dry. You can also pick the pot up and touch the soil at the bottom of the drain hole to see if it’s completely dry.
Haworthia likes a complete drenching followed by the opportunity to dry out completely. They want to be completely dry for several days up to a whole week before their next watering. The only way to do this effectively is to manually check the plant before watering.
Over time, you’ll figure out an average watering schedule for the plant, and you won’t have to check it manually every time. You must be careful not to overwater your Haworthia, as doing so will cause root rot and can ultimately kill the plant.
If you would like to read more on causes and fixes for a rotting Haworthia, check out my other article on the subject: How to Save a Rotting Haworthia Plant (8 Steps)
Understand the Haworthia’s Light Requirements
When people think about the hot, dry environment that’s natural to Haworthia, there’s often the assumption that the plant prefers full, bright sunlight. However, it’s quite the opposite.
Haworthia is found in desert conditions, but consider how small they are in size as a plant and then consider how small their associated root system is. They’re tough plants, but they’re still quite delicate in many ways.
These plants are often found in shaded areas or at the base of large rocks or other plants. They thrive in these conditions because they aren’t in direct sunlight, and if located at the bottom of a larger plant, the plant helps absorb excess water from the soil, which benefits the Haworthia.
As such, find a place for your Haworthia that’s not in direct sunlight but still gets bright but indirect light for a portion of the day. They can tolerate a small amount of direct sunlight, but not more than a few hours, so choose their location based on light exposure and be ready to move it as light changes with the change of seasons.
2. Gather Your Tools
Before you begin propagating, there are some items you must have on hand. Unlike many other plant species, no additional tools or items are necessary to propagate Haworthia. You simply need the following:
- Parent plant
- Extra succulent soil
- Pot for your new plants
As with the pot for your parent Haworthia, terracotta pots that drain into a drip tray are also best for your propagated plants. Buy terracotta pots that are small in scale, as the plants like to be in somewhat tight spaces, not in a vast pot sitting in a ton of soil.
You can repot your propagated Haworthia as they grow more prominent than the pot, but a small-scale pot is the best option for starter plants. Again, it must have drain holes so water can move through the soil quickly and dry the roots efficiently.
Therefore, if you’re unsure about which exact size pot you should get for your smaller Haworthia plants, it’s best to stick to a small size and repot it again later as it grows, as this lessens the possible risk of your new plant suffering from root rot.
3. Separate New Haworthia Plants From the Mother Plant
The best news about propagating Haworthia is that the plant propagates new plants for you without any intervention. All you need to do is to separate the new plants from the mother plant to start a new individual plant in its own pot.
Haworthia plants spread naturally by colonizing with new plants that grow from the mother plant. It gradually creeps across an area, staying where the conditions are ideal. If your conditions are perfect, your houseplant will also start new plants in its pot.
In time, you will see what appears to be a tiny new Haworthia at the base of the mother plant. They will look like a miniature version of the parent plant just above the soil and adjacent to the larger plant. Additionally, it’s common to see more than one new plant at once.
You might be wondering, can you leave the newly propagated Haworthia with the mother plant? You can, but eventually, the plant will outgrow its pot and either need to be repotted in a larger pot or separated out.
When To Separate the New Plants
Seeing these new starts is extremely exciting if you’re hoping for new plants. However, fight the urge to immediately remove the tiny new growth from the mother plant. It’s hard to wait, but giving them a little more time to grow and develop often will contribute to more vigorous plant success once they’re repotted.
Once the new growth is approximately one-third of the size of the mother plant, you can remove the plant from the parent. Even slightly smaller than one-third of the size of the plant can cause the new plant to struggle once it’s been removed.
Giving the plant the extra time allows it to develop a more robust vascular system, leading to better adaptation once removed from the parent plant and a better chance of thriving once planted on its own.
How To Separate New Plants
Once your plant and the new plants are at the right size to be separated, genuine fun can begin. Here are the steps you should follow to separate the new plants from the mother plant:
- Pick a day roughly halfway between your last watering and the next time you need to water the plant. This ensures the plant and the soil will be slightly damp but not wet.
- Remove the entire plant and root system from the current pot by turning the whole pot upside down, taking care to support the plant with the palm of your hand. You want to avoid unceremoniously dumping the plant onto the work surface, as this could damage it.
- If the plant doesn’t slide free, tap on the bottom of the pot with the plant inverted to loosen it. You want to avoid pulling the plant and soil from the pot. Doing so could damage or break the root system, which is fragile on a Haworthia.
- Once the plant has been removed from the pot, gently remove as much soil as is needed from the roots. This allows you to see where the parent plant ends and the new plant begins.
- Gently grasp the base of the new plant, just above the root system, and firmly pull it away from the parent plant. It should separate easily from the parent plant and you shouldn’t have to exert much force. If it seems a bit stubborn, try rotating the new plant in a circular motion away from the parent plant to see if it pops free. Gently remove each new plant from the parent plant similarly and set them aside for now.
- Add fresh succulent soil to the old pot and repot the parent plant in its original pot. Remember that Haworthia like the soil to be loose and drain freely, so there’s no need to tamp the soil down. Water the plant lightly if the soil is dry to help ease any transplant shock.
4. Plant the New Haworthia Plants
At this point, your next step is to plant the new plants by doing the following:
- Prepare your new pots by filling them approximately halfway with succulent soil, making a slightly indented space in the middle for the new plant’s roots.
- If the new plant doesn’t have new roots, leave it out to dry for a day or two before placing it in the soil. This allows the base of the plant to callus, which encourages root formation once it’s placed in soil.
- Once the new plants have been placed in the fast-draining succulent soil, water them lightly, focusing water on the area around the base of the new plant. Monitor the new plants closely for the first few months and note when the soil dries out and needs to be rewatered.
Since they’ll likely be in a smaller pot than the parent plant, you’ll probably need to water them more frequently, at least at first. The same rule of waiting a few days after the plant has completely dried before rewatering it still applies.
New starts will often look a bit rough after being separated and planted, as they go through some stress after being separated from the parent plant. During this stage, people often think the plant needs more water and is drying out.
Since Haworthia has a delicate root system and requires little water in the first place, it’s easy to overwater and rot your new starts by overwatering early after propagation. Resist the temptation to fix your new plants’ appearance by watering more than necessary.
When in doubt, check the soil manually to see if the root system has thoroughly dried. If you’re unsure, since Haworthia is a desert species, it’s better to allow the soil to be slightly too dry than to overwater the plant and potentially cause root rot.
Can You Propagate Haworthia From Leaf Cuttings?
Some sources say that it’s possible to propagate Haworthia from leaf cuttings, but those same sources will tell you all about how difficult it is and how likely leaf cuttings are to fail. This is because this isn’t how the plant naturally propagates.
Haworthia, like many in the same family, propagates by spreading at the roots, not by creating new plants when leaves drop. For this reason, I won’t even attempt to explain propagation through leaf cuttings because it’s ineffective and not how the plant naturally reproduces.
Just like providing it with the proper water, light, soil, and pot, propagating any plant, including the Haworthia, relies on learning about the plant and working with its natural tendencies. Attempting to force the plant to do something it doesn’t naturally do will often be unsuccessful and frustrating.
Propagating Haworthia is a simple process. When it comes to the Haworthia plant, the best way to propagate it is to separate the smaller, new plants that grow into different pots, rather than propagating from leaf cuttings.
If you follow the above guidelines, you’ll have many Haworthia for your home, to give as gifts, or to swap with other houseplant enthusiasts and grow your collection. In time, you’ll find that knowing when and how to propagate new Haworthia is second nature.